Ethiopia is Beautiful

Bill Easterly’s advice for once and book myself a hiking holiday here. And the Ethiopians are beautiful too, with a lovely intimate habit of promenading with hands on each others’ shoulders, or holding hands, or arm in arm. Even though I’m a white ‘ferenji’, I mercifully didn’t attract all the attention. A lot of the stares were instead directed at the Oxfam driver Fikrte DSC00441(see pic). One young boy simply shouted ‘why?’, while girls goggled at her (you could almost see the proto-feminist cogs turning). Luckily Fikrte seems to have inexhaustible reserves of good humour to put up with this kind of stuff, as well as weaving for hours on end between legions of goats, donkeys and cows, all of whom seem to regard the road as their own. She’s certainly the first woman driver I’ve ever seen working for Oxfam, and I was relieved to have a testosterone-free trip in a country with the world’s second highest rate of road deaths, according to a recent report. Highlights on our hotel menu included ‘roasted lump’ and ‘beef burger holestain’. See if you can work them out (answers at the bottom) The road out to the rift valley was dotted with numerous Chinese flags on large shiny metal billboards outside factories, construction projects and an enormous industrial park, contrasting with the weatherbeaten and rather battered versions of western governments and NGOs. I was even greeted with a ‘hey China!’ by one small boy – sign of the times. Mobile phones are everywhere – all the coffee farmers in one meeting had them, although none of them had electricity or piped water. When I asked what difference they make, the answer was always the same. You can check in on your relatives, talk to the sick, or sort out a meeting without going in person. By skipping the landline stage and going straight from having to walk miles to see someone (public or private transport are rare, beyond mules and horses), without any certainty that they will be there, to calling them on the mobile, the communications technology has brought huge time savings. colobusAnd finally, the only wildlife I normally get to see is roadkill, but as I’m a bit of a nature freak, the three colobus monkeys reclining in a tree top, in full view of passing cars were unforgettable. More traditional development fare follows once I get off the plane and start blogging. Menu decode: Roast Lamb, and Holstein beef ……]]>

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3 Responses to “Ethiopia is Beautiful”
  1. Caroline Sweetman

    Just read your blog ‘Ethiopia is beautiful’. Brings back my first trip there. If only more people thought about hiking in northern Ethiopia – it’s home to some of the most beautiful landscape and some of the most amazing historic monuments in the world. I am something of an armchair expert on this – and actually have a brochure for a tour guide that friends have used. It is a wonderful, unforgettable holiday to do Lalibela, Gondar and Axum… and then if you blog as you go, you will do something for the tourist industry.
    Finally, liked the menu items. My own personal favourite was ‘Lamps on Fire’ – another variation on Roast Lump….

  2. Michael

    “She’s certainly the first woman driver I’ve ever seen working for Oxfam,”
    I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more scathing indictment of the development industry in my entire life.
    Duncan: I’m tempted to respond ‘then you haven’t been looking very hard…..’, but it is pretty extraordinary, I agree. I will check with people who know and see whether our drivers really are all male.

  3. Robert Cornford

    Also just returned from Ethiopia – but only in Addis area. A great experience and I hope I can return. Really impressed by the CRDA (Christian Relief and Developmnent Association) compound, and especially by their library/resource centre.
    Manu item for your collection – from a breakfast menu: Eggs indifferent styles…